3 Collaboration Struggles in Community
Working together doesn’t have to result in you burning out or spinning in circles!
It can actually be incredibly productive, energetic and meaningful. No matter what your community’s focus (early childhood, literacy, poverty, sustainability), applying simple and consistent techniques to HOW you work together makes your collective purpose take centre stage, rather than the group’s dynamics.
If you have been following Ready to Raise for a while and read our stuff, you are probably already tuned into the key ways to harness groups of people to accomplish social change.
Unlike a networking event or one meeting at the beginning of the year to get on the right foot, which are all just one-offs, a consistent and intentional approach to improving collaboration has a stronger impact.
Integrating group development techniques and approaches into HOW you work together regularly is the whole point of working together better! It’s simple (but we admit, not always easy!).
“The way we want to work as a collection of organizations is hard to explain, and we’re not sure how to do it in order to make a meaningful difference in the community.”
We know that the passion is there. That’s why there is a committed pocket of people consistently around the table. Where it gets tricky is engaging others who might be interested but get scared off by the fuzzy collaborative expectations of the group. You don’t intend this to just be another meeting. You want to be innovative, get things done….save the world. We are 100% with ya!
Clarity about collaboration – what it means, how it translates to behaviours, and what elements are KEY to making change is needed in this situation. When we are working in community, we find the messy, complex dance of inter-agency work gets a lot easier to navigate when we’ve defined and assessed (thanks to the research) the most important things to pay attention to. We’re talking about things like leadership, participation, purpose and resources.
“We are all so busy. There is just not enough time and not enough resources and we struggle with people disengaging from the committee.”
This is the juggle between passion and a packed calendar; between process and action; between knowing deeply what is needed and not being able to articulate it to others; between giving and getting in a group. When each individual and the group as a whole defines WHY they care, appreciates the varying motivations of others – the bounty of contributions and commitment are released.
Sounds dramatic, but we’ve seen it happen. Community groups – front line providers, organizational leaders, municipal government, business, people with lived experience – gain significant traction when the AHA of what is behind each and every motivation and potential commitment is dusted off.
The whole is greater than the sum of it’s parts…and it is essential not to forget or overlook the uniqueness of the individual parts!
“Working together is hard! We are often derailed by territory, turf, competing agendas, difficult personalities and generally things that get in the way of accomplishing the work!”
Ah! The road less travelled is bumpy! The trick (not really a trick, just an intentional approach) is to acknowledge collaboration obstacles and both work to navigate them as well as anticipate/prevent them.
Working with and studying community groups for a couple of decades has shown us that challenges in working together gets blown out of proportion when they are ignored, swept under the rug, or resolved by giving up.
We teach a creative process to make space for those difficult explorations about internal challenges along with a Systems approach to dealing with them. With practice, this approach is useful for any obstacle so the skills are transferable (because hate to say this, challenges aren’t going away!).
To sum it up
Hopefully you don’t feel alone in your community building struggles. In fact, feeling isolated as a Community Builder is one of the biggest barriers to moving a group forward. Instead, gather your group to learn together.
- Define collaboration and identify the elements of successful community groups.
- Define a common understanding about how your group is working together.
- Discover from multiple perspectives what motivates and strengthens engagement.
- Uncover what everyone gives and gets from collaboration to increase buy-in.
- Shift from a problem focus to a solution focus in your collective efforts.
- Apply systems thinking strategies to your collaboration challenges
- Activate a collective plan for growing collaborative momentum.
These things can make a difference!